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Issue 24: Q2 2009

IQ 24 cover and inside front inset

…Education…Benelux…Barley Arts…Touring Exhibitions…Legal News…Ed


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The Expo Explosion First the industry was shocked by promoters turning to family entertainment shows. But now it’s the success of the exhibitions market that will raise more than a few eyebrows. Adam Woods reports… Skilled in the field of promotion, but tired of promoting concerts? Maybe you’re just searching for the family market that live music doesn’t easily reach? Or perhaps you’re looking for events that bring a regular, long-term return without the stresses attached to a one-hit event? Any promoter who answered yes to one or more of the questions above will no doubt

already have considered branching out into the touring exhibitions market, whose big hits have been so hard to miss in recent years. With long runs and family appeal, it is a field that seems to appeal equally to disenchanted promoters and eagle-eyed opportunists hoping to spread their bets. More or less anyone who lives in a major international city will have seen one or more of

them passing through: Titanic, Tutankhamun, Body Worlds, Star Wars and Abbaworld, which lands in Europe later this year. Clearly, these aren’t your ordinary shows, but no sensible promoter sniffs at good box office, which is why the thread that connects music and touring exhibitions is increasingly strong. AEG is somewhere near the centre of


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it, bringing Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs into London’s The O2 arena within months of its opening in 2007. That blockbuster is still making its way around the world under the auspices of AEG Live, while The O2 has since opened its doors to the British Music Experience.

span off into five simultaneous touring exhibitions, each well-stocked with original artefacts from the vaults of RMS Titanic, the owner of the wreck and its contents, which has since been acquired by Premier Exhibitions. For Norman, a former concert promoter who has held executive roles at Magicworks, SFX and Clear Channel Exhibitions, the business had an immediate appeal. “Artefacts don’t get sick,” he says. “They are never late, they don’t complain about the catering and they don’t lose their voice. There were just so many benefits.”

Entertainment Cousins The fact that exhibitions and gigs can co-exist in a venue such as the O2 seems to make the point that live music and permanent exhibitions are really just different types of entertainment. In any case, the touring exhibitions business is suddenly riddled with names from the live sector. Across Europe, noted promoters are throwing themselves into exhibition ventures, alongside or instead of their old projects. Live Nation, for instance, has a stake in Touring Exhibitions, the new company behind the forthcoming Abbaworld show. Premier Exhibitions, the Atlanta-based company behind Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition; Bodies; and

Body Worlds

I said to myself, this is my 26th year in the business – I don’t need this. Let all those other guys kill each other – Firat Kasapoglu, The Partners

Stress Relief

The Partners Leonardo da Vinci poster

Star Trek: The Exhibition, among others, is run by former Live Nation executive Bruce Eskowitz. S2bn, another player in this field, with a stake in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC and connections to Premier, was founded by one more former Live Nation man, the veteran promoter Michael Cohl. So just what is going on here? Are touring exhibitions the new rock ‘n’ roll tours? And if so, what exactly are the factors that are prompting hardened promoters to leave behind their old lives for a business that, one might imagine, owes more to the world of museums than the white-hot excitement of live music. John Norman, president and CEO of Arts and Exhibitions International (AEI), the AEGowned company behind Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, first encountered the form when he saw a Titanic exhibition at the Florida International Museum in 1998. “What was interesting was that the exhibition had been there six months and there were lines of people queued up through the museum and down the block,” Norman says. “I talked to the director of the museum, who said, ‘we are going to do 800-and-somethousand tickets over the course of the exhibition’, and I was doing the math in my head – 800,000 people at $20 a head – and thinking, ‘this is pretty good…’.” A touring Titanic exhibition became AEI’s first project. Over the next five years, the show

Others who have jumped across certainly don’t appear to have any regrets. José Araújo, associate producer at UAU, masterminds the Star Wars exhibition that has done the rounds of Lisbon, Porto, London, Brussels, Örnsköldsvik and Madrid since late 2006, and his enthusiasm for the exhibition model can barely be described in words. “It’s the future,” he says. “It’s a great business. With concerts, the promoter always gets the dirty end of the stick and very few agents treat you ethically. Plus, I was tired of the same old, same old: here’s the act, sell the tickets, here’s the contract a week before the show, do the riders etc. With exhibitions, there are no major stresses – you plan a year, two years ahead and you get to help the designers create what you think will work best.” In Madrid, Star Wars sold 300,000 tickets in three months. “How many acts would it have taken to sell 300,000 tickets?” he asks. While it doesn’t necessarily apply to all, there are certainly those, like Araújo, who see exhibitions as a lucrative, stimulating new enterprise that offers career

R2D2 forms one of UAU's exhibition showpieces


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sponsor Arçelik, a Turkish household appliance manufacturer; it has also had success with an Einstein exhibition in Istanbul for the American Museum of Natural History. “Instead of trying to get 5,000 or 10,000 people to a concert on one particular night, getting 200,000 or 300,000 people to an exhibition in two or three months is much better,” Kasapoglu says. It is a fair point, and the fact that the right exhibition in the right city can attract those kinds of numbers is probably the best indication of why promoters are getting interested. Even if ticket prices are routinely rather lower than for a music show, they nonetheless mount up.

Ancient Treasures

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

promoters a dignified escape from concerts – at least temporarily. Firat Kasapoglu, of Turkish promoter and event agency The Partners is another. “I’ve stopped doing the rock ‘n’ roll stuff for a while,” he says. “I said to myself, this is my 26th year in the business – I don’t need this. Let all those other guys kill each other.” Kasapoglu has been staging exhibitions for three years. In that time, The Partners has put on The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci in Istanbul, Ankara and Cyprus, backed by

They said, ‘it’s a huge production: we have 12 trucks full of crates’ and I kind of laughed inside, because I have done 92 trucks for U2 and festivals for hundreds of thousands of people

– José Araújo, UAU

German promoter Semmel Concerts’ ongoing exhibition, Tutankhamun – His Tomb and Its Treasures, is a worthwhile case study. It opened in March 2008 in Zurich, where it attracted 262,000 visitors in six months. A joint promotion with Live Nation in the Czech Republic took the exhibition to Brno, where it brought in a further 220,000 visitors. Since 8 April, Tutankhamun has resided at Munich's Olympic Park, generating a 17-page cover story in Stern, Germany's weekly news magazine. More than 300,000 visitors are expected before the show closes in August and heads north to Hamburg for a 1 October opening. In the meantime, a second iteration of the exhibition opens in Barcelona on 6 June before heading to Budapest and Warsaw. Semmel is currently working on dates for Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Korea, Japan, the US and Canada, where visitors are expected in the hundreds of thousands on every stop. “Many of the other exhibitions – Body Worlds, Titanic, Star Wars – are reaching numbers in the same region, sometimes even more,” says Semmel Concerts project manager Christoph Scholz. “It depends on the market, and whether you are in a large or small city; and whether you’re between October and April, which is the best exhibition period.” The appeal of a long-running exhibition that prints money for months on end is obvious, but Scholz points out that it can cut both ways.

“It is a daily box office and you will surely sell a few thousand tickets in advance, but you need to be nervous every day about whether 500 or 1,500 or 2,000 people will come to buy an exhibition ticket,” he says. “Every single day, it is a gamble.” Costs vary, of course. With museums, film producers and record companies among the partners for the larger touring exhibitions, no two are necessarily licensed in exactly the same way. As the lead promoter on Star Wars, UAU pays Lucasfilm for the right to use the brand and for the loan of vast quantities of memorabilia. Lucasfilm approved the exhibition, which was designed and built by UAU and its own contractors, and both sides do well from the arrangement. “For Lucasfilm, it is not totally about money,” Araújo says. “Part of the thing about this is the branding; keeping the name out there. But the exhibition sells well. The ticket price is €10 – we are not greedy – and everybody still makes money at the end of the day.”

Costs of Entry A successful exhibition can be a profitable thing, but equally the set-up costs are very far from negligible. Semmel spent €5million on the set, lighting and multimedia elements for its Tutankhamun exhibition, which recreates the Boy Pharaoh’s burial chamber in minute detail. Wherever the exhibition stops, Scholz says the cost to the local

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promoter generally runs at between €1.5m and €2.5m. Stockholm-based Touring Exhibitions, which plans to launch Abbaworld into the market at an unspecified moment this autumn, has not just Live Nation but Universal’s Polar Music (owner of the ABBA catalogue) among its shareholders. The company was effectively created to stage the exhibition, which means its licensors already sit on the board, perhaps simplifying the interaction with what is almost certainly the world’s biggest all-surviving band. “The opportunity is huge,” says Touring Exhibitions president Magnus Danielsson. “The upside is, it is a fairly manageable risk. You are not just doing one-off gigs – you get quite a substantial time to recoup the investment and actively work with it.” Danielsson, a former head of European operations for Live Nation Motor Sports (since sold to Feld Entertainment) brings from his former sector a sense of what makes a good familyorientated product. “When you work with families, all of a sudden you can talk to almost anyone in a way you can’t do for a specific concert,” he says. “And in my mind, if you want to attract a big audience, obviously you want to talk to as many people as possible.” Abbaworld has not met the eyes of the real world yet, but by Danielsson’s account, it may very well set a new technological standard for music-related exhibitions, or Body Worlds

The promotion has to hit more notes, have more depth and breadth in order to have reach

””

– Gail Vida Hamburg, Body Worlds

even for exhibitions in general. “I am not saying the other exhibitions aren’t good, but we have tried to do something more with this,” he says. “It is more like going to Mamma Mia! than going to an exhibition – there is going to be singing and dancing and 25 different rooms telling the story of ABBA. There will be ABBA holograms, you can go onstage with them, go in the arrival helicopter, record it all on an intelligent ticket and take it home.” Danielsson says Europe should expect a worldwide premiere to take place later this year, but that the exhibition will tour the world in two or three “units” simultaneously – one for Europe, one for North America, one for Australia – before a permanent ABBA Museum opens in Stockholm in 2011 or 2012.

A Perfect Match? If the appealing factors for promoters include the scale of the challenge, the access to the family market, the refreshingly different culture and the enticing revenue structures, the reason rights owners are putting their brands and artefacts in the hands of these road animals is perhaps even more straightforward: promoters know how to get things done, and they live and die by their marketing. “We feel that good, experienced, trustworthy, large-scale rock and pop promoters have the best chance of marketing these events successfully, because marketing is the key to everything,” says Scholz, whose local partners on the Tutankhamun exhibition have included Robert Porkert at Live Nation Czech Republic and Laszlo Hegedus at Multimedia in Hungary. Some exhibitions – even those run by music promoters – don’t use local partners at all. UAU, for instance, hires a local PR company for Star Wars wherever it goes and does the rest itself. But coming unheralded out of Portugal to pitch to Hollywood, Araújo believes it was his experience with the demands of rock ‘n’ roll that impressed his prospective partners at Lucasfilm. “They said, ‘it’s a huge production: we have 12 trucks full of crates’ and I kind of laughed inside, because I have done 92 trucks for U2 and festivals for hundreds of thousands of people. I’m like: ‘you should do Prince – that’s hard; you should do Michael Jackson – that shit was hard’. It was supposed to take two-and-a-

Abbaworld poster

half months to build and we did it in 17 days.” There are also other areas where the opportunities for music promoters are less apparent. Body Worlds, Dr Gunther von Hagens’ ever-controversial exhibition of plastinated human corpses, has entertained 27 million visitors since its first exhibition in Tokyo 14 years ago. It has spawned at least 19 imitations, but according to Gail Vida Hamburg, director of communications for Body Worlds and von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, rivals are lacking in crucial details. “Public anatomical exhibitions are so different from music events,” Hamburg says. “The music and the experience of the music are the main attraction with music events, but with public anatomical exhibitions, the appeal and the promotion are multi-layered, more panoramic. The promotion has to hit

Christoph Scholz


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UAU's José Araújo meets his new client

more notes, have more depth and breadth in order to have reach.” While any promoter can market and stage a show, Hamburg adds, the main challenge for a scientific exhibition such as Body Worlds is in creating the exhibits in the first place. “Running the exhibition is easy enough,” she says. “But the highest quality of plastination can take up to a year for a whole body specimen, so we have fewer exhibitions than our competitors. Copycat exhibitions roll plastinates off the production line, very quickly. They are frequently knock-offs of Dr von Hagens’ work, but they are able to assemble a lot of specimens.”

United Efforts Evidently, the entire touring exhibitions business owes itself to a high-concept fusion of museum-standard exhibits and blockbuster marketing. While promoters come easily by the latter, they are less able to fake the former, which is why most exhibitions are the product of several partners. Some of the most successful exhibitions draw on the expertise of both the museum sector and the live music industry. One of the trailblazers, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, which ran at London’s O2 from November 2007 and has since visited Vienna and the US, is a case in point. The exhibition is the product of the museum’s curatorship and artefacts, and the multinational promoter’s logistical clout and marketing know-how. “Ten years ago, we asked ourselves what was the best exhibition we could possibly do, and we agreed it was the Tutankhamun exhibition, but the Supreme Council said the artefacts would never tour,”

AEI's Norman says. “Clearly, they have changed their mindset since then, and now I think we are at over 6 million visitors. There were 5,000 artefacts found in King Tut’s tomb, which means we can have two separate exhibitions on the road.” There is no tension here, according to Scholz, as neither museums nor promoters can

The classic museum with original artefacts and the big blockbuster exhibitions have the right to live together – we are just putting it on a different level

””

– Christoph Scholz, Semmel Concerts truly replace each other in the equation, and both stand to benefit from the involvement of the other one. “We are not in competition with the museums,” Scholz says. “We highly appreciate

The Partners' Brain exhibition poster

their work, because the basis of a lot of these exhibitions is the scientific work they have done. The classic museum with original artefacts and the big blockbuster exhibitions have the right to live together – we are just putting it on a different level.” The long-term picture is still hard to make out. Promoters such as Araújo believe they will never look back; for Semmel, its Tutankhamun tour may or may not be the first and final foray into exhibitions. These are major undertakings, and they require brilliant concepts and spotless execution if they are to succeed. “If we find a strong theme to produce an exhibition; if someone comes with a clever idea, we are absolutely open to discussion,” Scholz says. Ultimately, sustaining a long-term business in exhibitions could prove to be every bit as draining as a life in concerts. But there is already a satellite industry mobilizing around these events, and given the success they have seen so far, it is hard to picture the bubble bursting overnight. ADAM WOODS

Tutankhamun – His Tomb and Its Treasures

Touring exhibitions article iq issue 24 june 2009